CineFriday: 75 Years of The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

February 19, 2016 — 1 Comment
Annex - Bogart, Humphrey (Maltese Falcon, The)_04

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Elisha Cook Jr. as Wilmer “The Gunsel” in John Huston’s THE MALTESE FALCON (Warner Bros. 1941)

There’s an oft-told tale about John Huston’s method of adapting THE MALTESE FALCON for the silver screen. The way the story goes, Huston was on his way to lunch (i.e., a bar) and told his secretary to take the novel line by line and convert it to the standard screenplay format. And that’s just what she did, and that’s pretty much the shooting script they ended up with. I don’t know if the story is true but Huston’s directoral debut was as faithful a book-to-screen adaptation as one could hope for. And why not? Dashiell Hammett’s second novel is practically the Rosetta Stone for film noir.

THE MALTESE FALCON is hands-down my favorite movie. There’s nothing I don’t love about it. So I’m as giddy as a kid at Christmas that Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events are screening THE MALTESE FALCON this Sunday (with encore screenings Wednesday) for the film’s 75 Anniversary. Seventy-five years, amazing! This was the last, best adaptation of the book after a spotty run. The expectations weren’t high and in many ways the studio perceived it as “B team” effort. Bogart was not the first choice to play Sam Spade. This project probably saved his career and launched him to the stratosphere after years of struggle. Sydney Greenstreet’s performance is already perfection but add to the mix that FALCON is also his screen debut and it’s startling how good he is. Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Gladys George, Ward Bond, Elisha Cook Jr. — all pitch perfect in their roles. Huston‘s approach to staging and shooting the film created a new look and filmmaking vocabulary.

Enjoy THE MALTESE FALCON in a theater near you this weekend. And here are some links for some more tidbits on the movie and the lore.

Vanity Fair’s piece on the Falcon — one of the most famous movie props of all time.

The Hollywood Reporter’s on the 75th Anniversary screenings

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  1. Monday Notebook: What About The Bird? « - February 22, 2016

    […] TCM Classics, Fathom Events and my favorite theater on the planet Regal 12 (Little Rock). I wrote a short piece about the film here. May try to catch it again in L. A. on Wednesday. Check out an encore performance if you missed it […]

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